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Recommended Dental Care for Chemotherapy Patients -- Advice from Steven McConnell, DDS

The effects of chemotherapy and radiation on our hair, eyebrows, and digestive system are widely known. But, what most of us don’t know is that chemotherapy wreaks havoc on our teeth and gums as well. Steven McConnell, DDS provides information on how to be proactive with your dental health while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

(PRWEB) March 24, 2010 -- Steven McConnell - a Marin County based Dentist with over 30 years experience is seeing an increase in the number of patients seeking dental care after completing cancer treatment. He has found a few simple home care routines that help patients alleviate the dental side effects of cancer treatment. "The primary goal of our supportive care is to help stabilize the mouth by restoring moisture, minimizing anything that causes dryness, balancing the ph of the mouth and strengthening the tooth surface," McConnell states.

Virtually everyone knows someone who has had to take on the trying and brutal battle against cancer. That person may have been your mother, father, sister, wife, or even yourself.

The effects of chemotherapy and radiation on our hair, eyebrows, and digestive system are widely known. But, what most of us don’t know is that chemotherapy wreaks havoc on our teeth and gums, as well. As soon as radiation or chemotherapy treatments start, oral health is immediately affected. The mouth becomes drier, gum recession and mouth sores start occurring. A common complaint is difficulty eating, drinking and swallowing. Often patients must rely on IV (intra-veneous) nutrition as eating and drinking is too painful. As the mouth becomes drier, the teeth also become weaker and more susceptible to decay. This is a critical time to have regular hygiene visits thereby doing all possible to promote optimum oral health. However, most oncologists often discourage hygiene appointments. Frequently, the side effects of a dental cleaning can increase the bacteria levels in the bloodstream and risk the health of a patient while they are in treatment.

During this time of treatment supportive dental care is imperative to dental health. Dr. McConnell recommends antibacterial mouth rinses that are alcohol free. Mouth washes or mouth rinses with alcohol promote dryness so at all costs avoid any containing alcohol. The antibacterial properties help minimize plaque formation and also help prevent mouth sores. His favorite brands are Closys and Breath Rx because they are alcohol free and have antibacterial properties. Both companies also make a tooth paste that compliments the rinse. McConnell recommends using the rinse at least two to three times a day and the tooth paste on an extra soft brush after every meal.

Dr. McConnell also recommends a remineralizing paste specifically designed to strengthen the tooth surface and make it less susceptible to decay. A secondary benefit of the paste is that it also helps to balance the ph of the mouth and support better saliva flow. The paste is applied to the teeth once a day after brushing. Although these products can be found on line or sometimes in stores, it is often easiest to buy them direct from your dentist. Other products like Biotene help promote saliva flow and different tooth pastes have shown the ability to remineralize weak tooth surfaces. However, the Closys, Breath Rx and remineralization pastes such as MI Paste are those McConnell has found easiest to use and most effective. The key is avoiding any products that promote dryness and incorporate products that are antibacterial, help mineralize the teeth and help balance the health of the mouth.

Sadly, even after cancer treatments are completed many of these painful and destructive consequences can continue. Mouth sores tend to disappear but the dryness and gum recession often persist and the teeth which are weakened by the treatments are much more susceptible to decay. When treatments are completed and after being released for dental treatment by the oncologist, it is then imperative to return to regular dental care. First concern is accessing any changes in dental health. A complete set of dental radiographs is imperative to look for any change to the supporting bone and any evidence of decay or infection. We recommend digital radiographs as they use 90% less radiation exposure for the patient. Often there are areas of decay which should be treated as soon as possible. A thorough gum evaluation is recommended as are any treatments to detect any early signs of gum disease. The link between oral health and overall health is now well documented. Establishing optimum oral health is important for everyone at any age. After cancer treatment it is imperative.

Click here to view the link to the ADA official statement on cancer and oral health.

Dr. McConnell has been in practice for 30 years and was recently named one of, “America’s Top Dentists” by the Consumer’s Research Council of America. He is also the expert Dentist for Smart Now, a on online source for expert health, fitness and wellness information.

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